Winning trainer Gai Waterhouse is eyeing a TJ Smith Stakes run during Sydney’s ‘The Championships’ in April after brilliant filly English returned to racing with a win in Saturday’s Challenge Stakes 2016 at Royal Randwick.
The three-year-old daughter of Encosta De Lago was one of the gun juveniles of last year’s Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival winning Randwick’s Group 2 Reisling Stakes (1200m) before a Golden Slipper Stakes second to stablemate Vancouver.
Her last start was a sixth to Pride Of Dubai in the Group 1 ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) meaning it was nearly 12 months between runs for the classy sprint star.
Leading up to her first-up run in the $500,000 Group 2 Hyland Race Colours Challenge Stakes (1000m), English had trialled beautifully including a February 19 winning heat at Randwick over 2016 Golden Slipper-bound Capitalist who went down in a shock loss earlier in the day to Waterhouse’s Kiss And Make Up in the Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m).
Pre-race English looked a mess however making Waterhouse and connections nervous, the filly sweating up and getting revved up in the gates knocking Tommy Berry off her.
While doing nothing right, once the race started she had the class to put it all together and enjoy her third win at her fifth career start.
It was Felines who jumped well from the outside alley to lead early before being pushed to settle second as Joe Pride’s ultra-consistent galloper Ball Of Muscle went up to set the pace.
English and Berry meanwhile were sitting back dead last in the 10-starter Challenge Stakes field.
Lord Of The Sky was being restrained in third while Peter Moody’s progressive Exceed And Excel colt Kinglike moved up into fourth at a track he won the Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1200m) at last September.
It was Ball Of Muscle up front upon straightening, while English ($5) was still well back looking in trouble.
There was no need to panic however as Berry sliced through the middle, cutting back on the inside with the filly to burst along the rails and come from last to first after holding out a gutsy Kinglike ($6.50) who ran second to make it a three-years-old quinella in the Challenge Stakes.
In a typically brave run at his preferred track and distance, the Ron Quinton-trained recent Summer Sprint winner Boss Lane ($26) ran a good third, meaning Ball Of Muscle
English savaged the line late in a very good performance, thrilling Waterhouse who hopes to take her to the $2.5 million Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) on April 2, a race named in honour of her father Tommy Smith.
Waterhouse has prepared three previous TJ Smith Stakes winners, most recently Bentley Biscuit (2007), and was quick to make comparisons between English and her second champion in the classic Shamekha (2005).
“She knows where the winning post is doesn’t she?” an always-enthusiastic Waterhouse said post-win on Saturday.
“Unbelievable turn of foot.
“I won a TJ Smith with a filly called Shamekha and she (English) is just like her.
“I will talk to my assistant trainer…but if he’s happy for her to go there that’s where I’d love to take her.”
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2016 Challenge Stakes Results & Finishing Order
Randwick Race 8 – 05/03/2016
|1||10||ENGLISH||Gai Waterhouse||Tommy Berry||–||6||54kg||$5|
|2||8||KINGLIKE||Peter G Moody||Craig Williams||0.3L||9||56kg||$7|
|3||4||BOSS LANE||Ron Quinton||Christian Reith||0.6L||8||58.5kg||$21|
|4||3||SHIRAZ||Tony McEvoy||Hugh Bowman||0.9L||7||58.5kg||$8.50|
|5||6||FELINES||Kris Lees||Brenton Avdulla||1.7L||10||56.5kg||$15|
|6||1||BALL OF MUSCLE||Joseph Pride||Tim Clark||2.1L||1||58.5kg||$4.20F|
|7||11||OTTOMAN||John O’Shea||James McDonald||2.7L||4||54kg||$21|
|8||7||RULE THE RIVER||Anthony Cummings||Blake Shinn||4.1L||2||56.5kg||$16|
|9||9||SPEAK FONDLY||Gai Waterhouse||Kerrin McEvoy||4.2L||3||54kg||$4.60|
|10||2||LORD OF THE SKY||Robbie Laing||Glyn Schofield||6.2L||5||58.5kg||$15|
|–||5||VA PENSIERO||Jason Coyle||Jason Collett||–||0||–||–|